Many people remain naive (like I used to be), when it comes to the potential benefits of clinical trials. What people don’t realize is how just one person’s participation can change the entire standard of care for many. Without clinical research, modern medicine and treatment would not exist.
Really? You’re Saying That Modern Medicine Wouldn’t Exist Without Clinical Trials?
Yes! Each drug or device that enters the market goes through a long process from discovery all the way to post-marketing studies. Each phase tests for the safety of the drug and if it works for the medical condition it is being developed for. Side effects that may occur, in the way of adverse events, are reported and collected by the drug or device company. Clinical trials are testing to see if the treatment can improve the quality of life for someone who maybe suffering from a chronic illness. The entire process of clinical testing a drug or device can last an average of three to eight years. And remember, clinical trials happen AFTER the drug has been discovered and tested in the pre-clinical lab. The entire process of discovering, testing, and bringing to market can take on average twelve years!
So why should you participate?
- Help further drug discovery
In order for new drugs or medical devices to be available to the public, researchers must ensure that the outcomes of the tests for treatment during the clinical trial is effective. Before a drug enters the clinical testing phase (testing in humans), scientists must put the drug or device through rigorous pre-clinical testing (in the lab) to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug. The scientists want to be able to get the intended result that were aiming for. Only a small percentage of the drugs that are created in laboratories even make it to the clinical trial stage to be tested in humans.
Once the pharmaceutical or device company can prove the drug or device is both safe and it works, the US Food and Drug Administration will then decide whether or not it should be made available to the public. Pharmaceutical and device companies would not be able to complete those FDA required clinical trials without the help of volunteers, just like you.
- Help other people
Participating in a clinical trial reaches far beyond your individual health. When you participate in a clinical trial, each time you receive the medicine or use the device in testing, you generate the crucial information that is needed to prove that the drug or device actually works. You are contributing to the clinical research that may bring better treatment to people all over who may be suffering from the same illnesses. Sometimes the information gathered from a clinical trial discovers an additional reason for the drug or device to work. It is through these trials that help researchers learn more about potential disease treatments which can help progress medicine as a whole.
- Take charge of your health care
The choice to participate in clinical research is a very personal one. The vast uncertainty of a clinical trial can make the decision difficult: maybe you’re uncertain about the potential tests involved or side effects that might happen. By participating in a clinical research study, you have the option to take charge of your health care journey. You are not only helping the scientist advance the discovery of medicine, you are helping people in the future who may be suffering from a similar illness.
Throughout the entire study, you are receiving the most in-depth care from your research team. Prior to your study participation, you as the patient are asked a long list of eligibility questions, as well as requested to complete some initial tests and/or exams. These questions, tests, and exams are necessary to complete to ensure that you meet the study requirements as well as to confirm that you really want to be that trial.
Please note, that each clinical trial is different from the next one, meaning that the initial test or necessary blood work required for one trial may not be the same for other trials. These initial tests are important for the clinical research team to have a baseline for your health. Having a baseline, gives them to ability to see how your body reacts throughout the clinical trial. Your research team is carefully monitoring your body’s reaction to the treatment throughout the entire study.
Since your health is looked at more closely during a clinical trial, you might learn something new about your illness or current medical condition.
You are also provided with the known listing of the potential risks associated with the drug or device. Your clinical research team wants to ensure that you are an informed patient with all of the necessary information and potential risks known up front. This is not to discourage your participation, but so you can be aware of any potential side effects.
- Gain access to better treatment for you
Patients who participate in clinical trials have access to treatment that is otherwise not available to them currently. The goal is to provide better treatment that what is currently available to the public. The study drug being tested may offer fewer side effects or allow someone’s disease or illness to become more manageable.
Clinical trials can provide valuable treatment to patients who have difficult to treat diseases or illnesses. Patients who have exhausted all other options of care might find a clinical trial that helps their illness where other standard care treatments have lacked.
- Become a healthy volunteer
Clinical trial participants do not need to be suffering from a disease in order to participate. There are many studies currently available who need an individual whom is healthy. Researchers ask for healthy participants to be included in clinical trials to help define the healthy standard. It is important for researchers to have these health standards to compare the collected data to throughout the study.
- No health insurance needed
An advantage of participating in a clinical trial is that you do not need to use your health insurance during any point of the study. Throughout the study, exams, lab work and doctors’ visits are necessary to ensure that the treatment is effective. The critical components that are done during the study are provided at no cost to study patients. You as the patient are volunteering your time to help further science in medicine.
Volunteering to participate in a clinical trial is important on many levels. Not only do clinical trials offer another form of care for patients with difficult to treat conditions, it also provides an opportunity to help researchers create new medicines in the future.